If Big Tech loses its moderation power, how can they stop the populists next time? Mark Zuckerberg is offering the Beltway a deal. Give us a de facto monopoly and we’ll keep moderating things in your favor. “Essentially what Facebook wants is for Section 230 to be modified so that companies are held liable for illegal content on their platforms unless they can demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying it.” Only the qualified—ahem “us”—need apply, and we’ll take care of you.
The unstated undertaking is that Big Tech will always break in the Beltway’s favor; thus it won’t be a threat and can escape the fate of Chinese social media. But power hates a rival and it remains to be seen whether the big guy will allow Big Tech to negotiate a fiefdom outside direct control. The management of companies can, after all, change, or market share can change, and while Mark might be fine today, who knows how things will be in ten years?
The obvious parallel is the old media, which Big Tech largely replaced. The state also wanted to control the old media but it was enough to manage most of it, allowing a few old media renegades for appearances. But tech is different: It aims to create an integrated universe in which the user’s innermost desires are analyzed—even anticipated—and friends, sometimes nonexistent ones, are selected for his acquaintance. Products are proffered, ideas are suggested, behavior is nudged, all in what Facebook calls the metaverse.
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